A Tale of Two Antitrust Battles
Bloomberg Businessweek|December 21, 2020
The U.S. government’s case against Facebook is bold; its case against Google, by the book
By Ben Brody, with David McLaughlin

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission jolted the markets on Dec. 9 with filings that seek to force Facebook Inc. to sell Instagram and WhatsApp. The FTC is trying to achieve something that hasn’t happened in four decades: the breakup of one of America’s biggest companies. The last giant U.S. company to be dismantled was AT&T in 1984.

What makes the case all the more surprising is that it’s the FTC, often criticized for lax enforcement, and not the U.S. Department of Justice pushing for the breakup. “The Facebook case is a really big deal,” says Sam Weinstein, who teaches at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. “If we imagine the government winning and breaking up Facebook, that’s a milestone.”

The federal government and states across the U.S. have sued both Facebook and Alphabet Inc.’s Google in recent weeks for abusing their dominant positions in social media and internet search, respectively. Together, the cases represent a watershed moment in U.S. antitrust enforcement and an escalation of regulatory pressure on the technology sector, which also includes a push to pare back a prized liability shield, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. But while the Google case stays comfortably within legal precedent, the Facebook case represents a startling offensive.

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